Muswell Hill’s London gymnastics school feeling the effects of Brexit as recruitment problems hit home

PUBLISHED: 10:08 01 February 2019

Jessica Shenton. Picture: London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance

Jessica Shenton. Picture: London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance


A Muswell Hill gymnastics and dance group is fearing a Brexit where immigration controls aren’t flexible enough to let top coaches into the country.

Marfa Ekimova, who has trained at the London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance. Picture: London Academy of Gymnastics and DanceMarfa Ekimova, who has trained at the London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance. Picture: London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance

The London Academy of Gymnastics and Dance, based in Hillfield Park has former world and international champions come over to north London to coach budding gymnasts.

The club coaches nearly 2000 children per week in schools, with the gymnastic luminaries coaching them including Silvia Kostova from Bulgaria.

However Jessica Shenton, who founded the group a decade ago, says she worries about the damage Brexit could have in the long term.

“Since the day of the Brexit vote, people applying for jobs with us from Europe has dropped by 75 per cent. We can’t expand at the rate we would like to if that continues,” said Jessica. She added: “We will have to train our own people at a much faster rate, but they don’t have the decades of experience that some of our coaches already have.”

She said at the moment the club is having difficulty meeting the demand by enthusiastic children and their parents. One Polish coach, a world championships bronze medallist, left Britain within six months of the Brexit vote.

“I want to celebrate the benefits freedom of movement has brought us,” said Jessica. “But I really hope there’s a way forward.”

The club runs sessions in schools nearby in Haringey, including at Fortismere, Coleridge, and Eden primary schools.

Its sessions have already paid dividends. Marfa Ekimova has been selected for Team GB’s under-16s side, Lois Charles has been selected for Special Olympics training, and Amaranta Chavez has been chosen for the England Performers Pathway squad.

The most talented young athletes will do around 20 hours training per week, on top of their school work and other activities.

Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West visited the group a few weeks ago to hear Jessica’s concerns, and is worried about the effect it will have.

She said: “This sadly shows the negative impact Brexit is already having. Talented people leaving the country because they don’t feel welcome and successful businesses struggling to survive. I voted against the second reading of the Government’s deeply flawed Immigration Bill, because it’s wrong to conflate “high-skilled” with “high-paid” when there are many vital jobs that aren’t paid over £30,000 but are highly skilled.

“London’s strength has always been its diversity and if we close our doors to our talented European neighbours everyone loses out”.

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